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Book TV After Words

Kim Ghattas Education. (2013) 'The Secretary A Journey With Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power.'

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America 42, Clinton 22, United States 20, U.s. 17, Us 13, Libya 9, Syria 7, Pakistan 7, Lebanon 6, Alexandria 6, Paris 4, Benjamin Netanyahu 4, Washington 4, China 4, Egypt 3, France 3, United 3, Beirut 3, Israel 3, Europe 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    Kim Ghattas  Education.  (2013) 'The Secretary A Journey  
   With Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American...  

    March 17, 2013
    9:00 - 10:00pm EDT  

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other matter but at least they have a way to enforce the speed limits. in 1965, they hired the first police officer of color and his name was albert beverley from orange county. there was pressure on the police department for a number of years to hire a black police officer. pressure from the mayor and from the community. the police chief at the time said he wanted to do it. he repeatedly said i just have to find the right person. he wanted to find somebody that was successful, he enjoyed a 20 year career in the agency. one thing that is interesting to alexandria's history is that in 1874 the president of the united states lived here for a week and have and what happened at that time as gerald ford, who served as vice president became president when next-gen resigned. it happened very quickly at the time for the families living in
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alexandria they had been living there for 20 years. .. >> when world war ii hit, a lot of men had to go serve in the war, and some officers went and served in the war, so pretty soon there was a need for women to start working in the department. and that's really when they hired their first secretary. the first women were civilians who were indoors. in the early 1950s, they wanted to free up police officers for more important things than school crossings,
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and so the department hired women to serve as crossing guards. with this group of women, there were three who were african-american, and not only was it the first time women were in uniform representing the agencies, it was the first time people of color were in uniform representing the alexandria police department. and the alexandria million polie department was one of the earliest agencies to use k-9s in police work, they deployed the first unit in 1959, and within a couple years there was actually a police officer who had trained his dog to respond to radio commands. and the k-9 corps which eventually evolved into the k-9 unit, was very popular at the time unless you were a bad guy trying to get away. and officer owe cam, unfortunately, he was killed in the line of duty. thing to was able to live with the officer's family following his death.
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the alexandria police station today is much like it was in the 1930s. it's a benevolent association, they work to support the interests of their members who are largely police officers. they will support if an officer has a family situation, um, a personal crisis, you know, they'll reach out and offer support to the family. they also provide scholarships to students as t.c. williams high school. in the past they've arranged for holiday dinners for seniors, social events for their members, a variety of benevolent and goodwill outreach work. >> for more information on booktv's recent visit to alexandria, virginia, and the many other cities visited by our local content vehicles, go to c-span.org/localcontent.
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>> up next on booktv, "after words" with guest host jamie weinstein, senior editor at the daily caller. this week bbc correspondent kim ghattas and her book, "the secretary: a joinny with hillary clinton from beirut to the heart of american power." in it, ms. ghattas examines ms. clinton's role and seeks to answer whether u.s. power is in decline. the program is about an hour. >> host: i think where we should begin is to talk a little bit about your biography, because i think as much as this book is about hillary clinton and her time as secretary of state, it's also about your experience from beirut to covering the secretary of state around the world. so why don't you just begin by talking a little bit about where you came from. >> guest: well, great. sure. jamie, thank you for having me,
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and i'm flighted by your first question because, of course, the biggest star in the book is hillary clinton herself, but this isn't just a biography of an historic woman, it's also a different take on the whole issue of american power. and as you mention, i come from beirut. i grew up there. i was born in beirut in the middle of the civil war in 1977, and i lived my whole life in lebanon, first 13 years in war and then the rest of the time, um, as some people may know beirut is not exactly a stable city, lebanon is not exactly a stable country. so we've been through many, many ups and downs and i lived through all of them which gives you a or very interesting take on the world, on america's position on the global stage and the first sentence of my book is i grew up in beirut on the front lines of a civil war. and my father always said if america wanted the conflict to end, it would be over tomorrow.
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so it sort of frames the whole discussion about what is america, what can it do, how much power does it really have and to try to find the balance between this illusion of how much power america actually has and what is really happening on the ground. so that kind of frames the discussion. but i lived in beirut my whole life. i became a journalist there. living through war is what drove me to become a journalist. i was always keen to understand the chaos around me, understand why i had to live through what i was living, you know, alongside the other four million lebanese who were there. i covered the middle east extensively, syria -- which, unfortunately, is going through its own terrible conflict at the moment -- saudi arabia, iraq. and then i applied for a bbc job to cover the state department. i was already their correspondent in beirut. i was writing for others as well, but i was doing more and more for the bbc, and i eventually applied for the state department job which i thought
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was an amazing opportunity for me to see another perspective on what i had been covering in the middle east. obviously, i knew a lot about the u.s., i traveled there, i'd been here on holiday, i have an american brother-in-law, but it just gives you a front row seat to the other side of the story. >> host: and you were the, if i'm not mistaken, the only non-american foreign correspondent in the traveling press corps for the state department, is that right? >> guest: that is correct, although my colleagues from reuters may want to point out that they are not american, but i'm also nonwestern. you know, i have a dutch mother, but for all intents and purposes, i'm very much an arab woman. i grew up there my whole -- i lived there my whole life, and that's kind of what i bring to the table. although i have, of course, a western perspective on some things because of my background, my mother's nationality and the time i've spent travel anything the west. but, yes, i was the only non-western and specifically for the bbc the first non-british
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person to cover this beat. >> host: i think one of the most interesting parts of the book is actually learning the process of being secretary of state, going from country to country, and you kind of take us there as hillary clinton traveled all around the world. so let me just talk a little bit about process and ask you about that. when, when the book opens in the first chapter after the introduction and you're with the traveling press corps and hillary clinton comes in for the first time and you mention that the press is star struck with her, do you think that affected the coverage in any way, that she was such a big figure that, you know, they, you know, were trying to pull back a little bit? >> guest: i don't think so, no. i really don't think so. there was this moment that is inevitable when someone with her celebrity status walks into a room, and it applies to world leaders as well. it's not just us journalists. and, of course, you know, just to reassure the viewers, there was no clapping. because there was a lot of
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clapping when she walked into the building for the first day, her first day on the job. um, there was this instant of being a little bit starstruck because she is hillary clinton. not all of us had ever, had met her in the past, so there is that first moment of, you know, wow, hillary clinton is there. but then it's immediately followed by, okay, you know, what are the tough questions that we want to ask her? and we certainly didn't shy away from asking those questions throughout her tenure both for myself when i interviewed her, we've had some very tough exchanges but always very fair and very much designed to broaden the conversation and further the understanding about the issues. um, and also there was a little bit of wariness on both sides because she hasn't had necessarily, to put it mildly, a great relationship with the media. so she was a little bit wary of us, you know, who was this new press pack who was going to cover her, you know, how were they going to write their stories. and we were wondering, you know,
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how is this going the work? this is a political personality that suddenly arrives in a very wonkish world of diplomacy where every comma matters, where it's all about the nuances. how is this going to work? is so there was also a certain degree of wariness when she adrived because she also -- arrived because she also brought a little bit of the hulk riland as it was dubbed when she was at the white house. >> host: and as i said, i was intrigued by the fast pace of these trips. one day you're in islamabad, next day you're in the united arab emirates, and you're constantly traveling. there's this book, as you mentioned, that's constantly updated where -- with where they're going. but it seems like little time to digest what you just did and where you're going next. and even in the midst of one trip, i think you mentioned in one instance they're planning a trip to latin america in two weeks. is this good, is it good to be this fast paced? should there be more time to digest what's going on? isn't this how mistakes would be
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made? >> guest: let me first tell you about what it was like for me to follow her. obviously, yes, it is very fast paced. and, unfortunately, it's the nature of the world that we live in. you don't have the luxury to sit back and press pause on world events and say let me first digest what happened in syria before i turn my attention to pakistan. it's kind of why i wanted to write the book. obviously, i'm a journalist covering daily news whether it's on the road with the secretary of state or here in washington where i cover foreign policy, and that's what motivated me to write "the secretary," to sort of take a step back and digest everything i had seen and learned. i had learned a lot being in this front row seat to history, to diplomacy. watching all those different events unfold. and writing book was a very maturing experience as well as i digested, as you say, some of what i had seen and tried to come to some of the conclusions that i was trying to get at. but when it comes to the secretary of state and the people around her, i think that
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what i found striking is her ability to stay focused at all times as much as possible on what is happening. she doesn't get distracted by the details if they're not important. obviously, details often matter. but she has an ability to stay focused on the big picture. how is what is happening in afghanistan impacting what they might be doing in the middle east? how is what is happening in the middle east impacting what they're trying to do in asia? i think she had a good sense of what is the big picture, what is the strategy here. and, of course, she's surrounded by people who are helping her. i have to carry my own suitcase, but she has staff. and that allows her -- and i talk about that a little bit -- that allows her to stay focused on what really matters. she doesn't have to worry about whether lunch is going to be served or not. it'll just arrive, and when it arrives, she'll have it while she's thinking about the bigger picture. but, of course, i think mistakes do happen, and i think that's
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inevitable. but it's also important to acknowledge that, and that's part of what motivated me to write the book for an audience around the world who have this impression that america's this, you know, all-knowing power that has the answers to everything and has all the facts and has a full-proof plan for everything. it doesn't work like that. america's run by fallible human beings who don't have all the facts, don't always have all the answers and are trying to do the best they can, and sometimes it doesn't work out. >> host: and i want to explore that later because i think that's one of most interesting parts of the book, is the question of america's role in the world. but i think maybe we should turn to some of the examples and some of the country cans you traveled to can and how it felt, and i think there's no better place to start than beirut. they traveled there early on, and you did with the secretary of state. what was that like returning to beirut as part of an american delegation? you were in the convoys. you said you used to watch and be annoyed about when you were a
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child and growing up in beirut, what was that like? >> guest: it was very unsettling , and writing that chapter was the first time i really said very much about it. it was the first time that i put into words how, um, i felt about being there. as you mention, yes, you know, growing up in beirut there were often mixed feelings about the united states, whether for me or others in lebanon. i grew up in many an environment -- in an environment where we did tend to look to the west for support or help, but i have a lot of friends who grew up on the other side of the divide who don't see the u.s. the way my friends or my family do. but inevitably, america's a superpower, and it comes with sharp elbows sometimes and big motorcades and big fortresses as embassies. and that can be a bit grating on the local population.
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so it was really interesting or perhaps, um, revealing for me to be on the other side all of a sudden. it's just a totally different prism through which to look at the issue, to look at the eshoo, the to look at my own country. and i arrived, you know, i'm in the convoy, and i'm sitting there in the convoy and just a few cars ahead of me is another car in that same motorcade surrounded by security escort. this is the secretary of state, and there is jeffrey feldman, um, who is now assistant secretary of state at the state department who used to be ambassador to beirut, and it was his convoy that used to annoy people in beirut, that used to annoy me when i was stuck at an intersection waiting for him to drive through. and i think it's always worth remembering that you have to try to look at things from other
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people's perspective if you want, if you want to understand what they're going through. whether it's as a lebanese trying to understand what the u.s. is trying to do, to try and understand things from their perspective, or whether it's for americans like jeff feldman or like hillary clinton to try to say what does it look like if you're in pakistan? what does it feel like if you're living in beirut? but on some level it was also quite emotional. i write about how i land in beirut, and i call my sister, and she says what does it mean for us? why is she here? there's always this question, what's the plan as though america had this piece of paper it just dropped on the table. and then there's this moment that i sort of share with the secretary because it's the first time that she goes to beirut. she's never been to my country before, and she knows that i'm lebanese and at a press conference she mentions that in public. and i could just sort of imagine what people might have been thinking, um, across lebanon. there might have been people cheering, oh, my goodness, you
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know, she recognized my friend or our colleague, we're so proud of her, and there might have been people thinking, you know, not exactly a badge of honor if the american secretary of state recognizes you in public like that. so it's those conflicting emotions that suddenly come with finding yourself on the other side. >> host: did you get any calls from family members or friends asking you, you know, kind of questioning you traveling with the delegation in anyway? >> guest: well, obviously, there was a securityish hue with traveling -- issue with traveling to beirut. beirut has a heavy history when it comes to the united states, and i go into some details about that, you know? an ambassador was killed in beirut during the war, an american ambassador, a cia chief of station was killed, the embassy was bombed, the marine barracks were bombed in 1983. so there are many reasons why the u.s. feels, you know, very wary about its security and the security of its diplomats in the country. so we were under instructions
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not to say anything to anyone about our arrival because we didn't want to compromise the secretary's security and our own, in essence, because we were traveling with her this the motorcade. so i wasn't able to tell anyone i was coming, but the minute i landed, i called my sister. my parents happened to be out of the country which was very disappointing, but my sister was there, and i called her. i then, you know, clinton only spent four hours in beirut for that trip, but i stayed behind. so i stayed, and obviously, yes, then everybody comes up to me, and i have lunch and breakfast and dinner with friends was it's a -- because it's a very social environment in beirut, it's all about eating out with people. and obviously everybody's asking me what are the americans doing about this, what are they thinking about that? what does her visit mean? what is she going to do? um, and those are the questions that i used to ask myself about the united states when i was in beirut, and it was fascinating for me to try to answer some of those questions with whatever it is that i did know.
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>> host: uh-huh. and one of the issues that always occupies any secretary of state, any administration -- usually at the end, but in this case the beginning -- is the israeli/palestinian conflict. president obama, as you mention in your book, his first call was to, as president, to mahmoud abbas, the head of the palestinian authority. how did that get derailed? it seems like it's no longer -- maybe it's going to again become a front burner issue, but for at least three years of the presidency it kind of went to the back burner. what happened there? >> guest: several things. and it certainly wasn't for the lack of trying on the part of this administration. i think that you can sum it up by saying expectations were raised way too high by the president, by the administration um, there was a belief that perhaps there was a window of opportunity that could be used to advance, um, the talks. but there was a misreading in the united states about what had
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changed on the ground in israel and in the palestinian territories and where each of the players was, be it netanyahu and abbas. and there is often the sense that if you're the american president, you can make anything move. and then you bump against reality. it's not enough to be, obviously, the candidate of change, the president of change. there is a certain reality on the ground. sometimes the personality of a president can help make things move along. but you have to remember that players on the ground have their own agendas, their own domestic, um, considerations, their own fears and concerns. about what they can give up on or not give up on. and then there was this moment where hillary clinton shows her loyalty to the president, and without revealing too much to the readers about the plot, um, there was this moment where she shows loyalty and emphasizes a statement that the president has
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made in a way that the players on the ground, the palestinians and the israelis, feel that they're now stuck in a surgeon position, and they have to -- in a certain position, and they have to unblock that. but the palestinians are sitting there thinking, well, you know, we're not going to be more british than the british or more royal than the king, we're just going to wait for the americans to deliver what they said they would deliver. >> host: we're talking, i think, about the settlements here. >> guest: yes. >> host: and the administration's position was -- >> guest: the call for freezing all settlements. >> host: which was beyond what the palestinians were calling for at the time. >> guest: initially, yeah. and certainly beyond what the israelis were willing to give. >> host: right. but once the president made that the issue, the palestinians couldn't be less palestinian than the way that the president -- but that was interesting because it was an example of where i think you say hillary clinton disagreed with the president -- >> guest: but she didn't say it. as far as i can tell, she didn't voice that disagreement, at least not forcefully.
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she picked up on a vibe within the white house that was all about being bullish, showing bebe netanyahu who was the boss. because, remember, her husband, bill clinton, was in power in the '90s when benjamin netanyahu was prime minister. and there was a lot of frustration there, and i describe that a little bit to explain the context with which, within which people were operating. hillary clinton is in a way back. he wasn't in the policy-making aspect of the white house back in the '90s, but she remembers what the interactions were like. rahm emanuel is back. he was by bill clinton's side not necessarily devising policy on the middle east either, but certainly an adviser. and now he's there with president obama, and it's sort of -- it sort of informs a little bit of the mood of needing to be bullish b and needing to be strong when it comes to dealing with benjamin netanyahu because everybody's been there before. and i had, um, you know, american officials tell me, you know, benjamin netanyahu thinks
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that he can, you know, wait this out until we leave, but, you know, we're going to be here longer than him. so we can just, you know, try to move the ball forward a little bit here and there until he's edged out of, you know, the political scene pause that's just the nature of politics in israel. but, you know, benjamin netanyahu's just been reelected. so there were a series of miscalculations. but i think that what i would like to, um, remind people of is that there is a tendency in the arab world and possibly around the world to always say, you know, america did this wrong, it's america's fault. america didn't deliver. and i think to some extent there is absolutely truth to that, but i think that it's also important for people in the region, for people like me, for people in the arab world to come to grips with their own responsibility about what they can do. obviously, it's very difficult for the palestinians to, um, feel like they have the upper hand because, you know, they're
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certainly in a very difficult position, and they're not the strongest party at the negotiating table. but it doesn't help the issues to just blame everything on the united states, and that's something that is ingrained in a lot of people's thinking. >> host: i guess what fascinated me is i think it's just a jumping-off point, this private disagreement between the president and hillary clinton on how to approach the israeli/palestinian conflict. to ask you, i depress, to ask you -- i guess, to ask you were there lots of disagreements that you could tell between the president and the secretary of state on how to approach various situations around the world? what was really her role as secretary of state? was she shaping policy to a significant extent, or was she basically implementing policy that was coming from the white house? >> guest: just going back a little bit to the israeli/palestinian discussion, i think she didn't necessarily voice her disagreement about the approach the administration was taking because it was of in the first year of her tenure, and
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all she wanted was to show loyalty. that is certainly my reading of what was, what was happening. so she may have thought i don't think this is the right way to go about it, but she didn't necessarily voice that very forcefully. so i'm not sure there was an open distreatment. disagreement. and that is an interesting aspect of the relationship between hillary clinton and barack obama, two former rivals who are learning to work together now as president and secretary of state. but overall in the bigger picture i think that she, um, did carry a lot of weight when it came to the decision making. i think she was both an influencer and an implementer. she was one of the heavyweights at the table alongside bob gates in that first cabinet or in the first term of president obama. she had a lot of experience. and she was a big player on the global stage. president obama knew when he was elected that he wasn't going to be able to travel around the world and make america's case on a daily basis because he was
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going to be busy at home with the economy. so there was a very clear reason why he -- one of the many reasons why he chose her as secretary of state, because he knew she could do that for him on a daily basis in all around the world. and that's why i think that she would bring to him an accurate reading of where things stood, what she could deliver to him in terms of moving forward, in terms of agreement, in terms of where the players were when it comes to libya, for example. deliver to him, you know, what was needed for him to make the decision. she lost some battles, but she certainly influenced a lot of decisions. libya being one of them and asia, definitely. >> host: uh-huh, and we'll get to libya next, actually, i find that a -- it was a or very interesting scenario in what happened there. but just one last question on the israeli/palestinian conflict. i was covering aipac in 2010 when hillary clinton spoke at the conference, and she mentioned at the time something that i thought was interesting.
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she said that far-flung destinations from the conflict where she would be traveling, that issue would still come up as the first, second or third issue. and it struck me as unlikely other than europe that people would be focusing on this in far-flung destinations, and once we saw wikileaks come out and we saw that the saudis weren't even particularly that interested, they wanted to talk about iran and cutting off the head of the snake, did you get the sense that beyond maybe israel's immediate neighbors and beyond maybe europe that that was one of the top issues of discussion that people wanted to talk to hillary clinton about? >> guest: it comes up often and beyond those regions. obviously, if you're in pakistan, there are immediate concerns that pakistan has. but america's relationship with israel does often come to the fore as a way for people in pakistan or afghanistan, um, to explain, you know, what
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america's prism is when it deals with international affairs. i think that it's a conflict that, you know, it grabs a lot of headlines, it's been intractable, it is ongoing, it does resonate around the world all the way down to africa and latin america. because it is one of those conflicts that is constantly in the headlines. i'm not sure whether every single world leader she met with wanted to speak about the arab/israeli conflict, but i have no doubt that it came up very often. >> host: it just struck me as one of the things that might have led them to try to address the israeli/palestinian conflict, believing that it was linked to so many other things. but as -- we'll move on to the arab spring, i think that showed that other things are going on that aren't necessarily focused on the conflict. and arab spring, obviously, dominated a lot of her time as secretary of state. it happened suddenly. no one was really anticipating it happening, at least at that
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moment. maybe they believed that down the road stability would not be maintained with these dictatorships. what was it like to be in, covering the state department at the time of the arab spring, and how was the state department handling all these things happening at once? >> guest: you know, they were really scrambling to keep up with the change. i think everybody was. the europeans, the russians, the chinese perhaps to a lesser extent, they're much further away, they have their own domestic concerns. but it was again, going back to the point i was making at the beginning, it was a reminder that, you know, the superpower is run by fallible human beings, real people who are suddenly thinking, oh, my goodness, what is going on there? what are we going to do? what are the long-term consequences? what are the short term, how should we handle this, what about mubarak? what happens if we say to mubarak you have to go, what happens to our relationships with other countries in the region? you know, the u.s. is often seen as a fickle friend. if we suddenly tell mubarak he has to step down, you know, what
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are the saudis going to think, what are the pakistanis going to think? we're just trying to rebuild our relationship with them. so it was just a reminder of that. but i think the arab spring, um, the chapters around the arab spring are a perfect example of what this book is trying to do. it's trying to bring the reader into or give the reader a front seat row to diplomacy in action. it's a great way to travel around the world, sitting in your chair getting a history lesson on international affairs and learning how to connect the dots, learning how one crisis affects another, another region how what happens in far-flung areas actually affects people in the united states. and i try to do it in a very accessible way that makes it engaging for people sitting in, you know, florida or oregon who are not quite sure why they should care about the arab
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world. >> host: and it's an interesting topic, a jumping-off point for the discussion of american power because for all this talk of american decline, you write in the book that, you know, no matter how maybe some people in the region didn't see america as always a benevolent force, in the midst of that storm or of these revolutions, no one was calling out to china for recognition. they were still calling out for america in some way or another. >> guest: they are. and when america doesn't respond, people get very upset. more so than if china doesn't respond. because there is the till a feeling -- still a feeling within the arab world and other regions, i think, as well that no matter its faults, the u.s. should stand up for democracy, human rights, etc. so whatever the history of the united states, whatever the interests that it has to pursue, that is expectation. >> host: but you write it's almost like a cash 22. >> guest: it is. >> host: i think you quote one
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official who says if we intervene, they say we're meddling. if we stay back, they say why aren't you standing up for civil rights. >> guest: absolutely. and i think that is the fate of a superpower, right? it is a catch 22. people want you to deliver for them, but they don't necessarily want to give you what it takes to deliver for others. so it's all about your own, your own interests. and, um, i do quote the this official who say we're kind of damned if we do, damned if we don't. and, you know, the pendulum swings constantly. it's a cyclical thing. look at syria now. people are very, very upset in syria and in the region to some extent and here in the u.s. you listen to senator john mccain, very upset that the u.s. isn't intervening, isn't doing something. there was, you know, perhaps as much upset when the u.s. decided to go to war in iraq. now there's upset because of inaction, and, you know, under the bush administration there was upset because of action. so it's a struggle to find that
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fine line. >> host: i think it's break time. [laughter] >> guest: great. >> on the go? "after words" is available via podcast. visit booktv.org and click podcast on the upper left side of the page. select which podcast you'd like to download and listen to "after words" while you travel. >> host: and then there was libya which could argue be a success. some people say, you know, a distraction or what not but certainly a place where hillary clinton played a pivotal role. she travels to to france as you document in your book, and she basically wants to make sure that other people are going to contribute before -- and it doesn't seem like she's giving hints that the obama administration is going to act, but she wants to first make sure that other people will act with
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the united states if there's action. so explain, explain what she, what she's doing in france. >> guest: well, first, let me give you the context of that trip because it was one of the most insane trips that i have been on. everything was on the move. it felt like the world was ending. you had the earthquake in japan with the tsunami there and the nuclear crisis, you had a crisis with pakistan where the cia contractor raymond davis was detained, you had, um, the revolution that was just ending in egypt, hosni mubarak had just stepped down, tunisia had already happened, the revolution was ongoing, the uprising was ongoing in libya, syria was just erupting, and you had a couple of thousand saudi and emirati troops filing into, marching into bahrain to try to quell the unrest there. all of this happening at the
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same time while we're on this flight to paris, and the u.s. is coming under intense pressure to try to do, intense pressure to do something about libya where mahmoud gadhafi was threatening to level the town, the city of benghazi. so that takes you back to one of the first questions that you asked about, you know, it's all fast moving and, you know, how do you make sure that you're not making any mistakes. you don't have the luxury to stop. you just have to handle it all at the same time. and that's just one tiny little window, um, into how, you know, dynamic it is to address all those challenges. so hillary clinton goes to paris to try to assess where everybody is on the issue of libya. because this administration is not going to get involved in any sort of military intervention unilaterally. there is no repeat of that for this administration. and they don't want to be
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leading the charge and then find out that everybody's standing way back in the back and, you know, criticizing them for having gone forward. so they're keeping their cards very close to their chest, and hillary clinton is, in essence, kind of, you know, lining up her ducks or as i say in the book, you know, going through her checklist. what do we need, what does the u.s. need to make the decision to go for intervention. and she goes about very methodically lining all that up. he speaks to the brits and the french to figure out exactly what they are going to contribute or not, if they understand what it entails. she explains that a no-fly zone is not actually enough, you need to do more. the arab league has just called for a no-fly zone, so they are on board, and that kind of moves the needle on the decision making for the united states. and then crucially, she meets with the libyan opposition leader to kind of size up, you
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know, who is this man, what can he bring, what will he deliver, who are we doing business with. and it's when she gathers all those elements that she makes the call, um, and decides that it's time to tip the balance in favor of intervention. and that's very often how she operates as far as i can tell in conversations with the president. she gathers everything she needs to make her case, and then she does it by making that case to the president and, in essence, almost leading him to the natural conclusion of what is the next step to take. >> host: but i think within this scene we see as, you know, the famous official told the new yorker this is leading from behind. traditionally, you would imagine america would make a decision this is in america's national interests, we are going to gather a colugs, and we're going to compel people or argue people to join us, but if they don't join us, we think this is in our interests, we're going to do it. but what we see, i think, through your example is that she is first trying to make sure
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people are going to do something, and if they're going to do something, then we'll consider doing it. she's not saying that this is what we need to do, this is in america's national interests, she's first waiting for other people to commit to the united states before doing. and i see this as in a real way a very different way than we've seen in this past administrations in america acting. >> guest: it's actually not that different from the coalition put together by bush sr. for the first gulf war. that was also a collaborative effort. the united states was leading, perhaps more openly and vocally, but certainly wanted to make sure everybody was on board, and it wanted a broad coalition. and what hillary clinton and president obama do with libya is say, well, you know, it's not really in our national interest at this stage to get involved in this. but it matters to our european partners, and the arab world is asking us to help in a way that sounds as though they are
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willing to, um, put their money where their mouth is. because she also talks to the emirates and the qataris and ascertains that they will participate militarily. because that's often the danger, you know? the united states leads the charge, the arabs don't participate militarily, and then they criticize the u.s. for, you know, um, getting into a war in another muslim country. so it was about making sure that the perception of what was happening was accurate. do you want to call it leading from behind? it's certainly not leading from the front, but i'm not sure it's the right characterization. i think it's a more collaborative approach to how you exercise american leadership and how you bring people on board. >> host: the u.s. would not have -- do you think the united states would have gone into libya had france and the arab league not, you know, been pushing for it and promising to -- >> guest: possibly not. possibly not. because the french were absolutely adamant that they
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wanted to go ahead with this. and i think that that was part of the, um, the, one of the factors that shaped the conversation when people were debating this within the administration. you know, clinton tells the president, look, the french are going ahead with this with us or without us. and we may just as well get in there and shape this to look like something that we can work with. there's no point having just a no-fly zone if we're going to be doing a no-fly zone for ten years. what's the point in you need to actually have a result. and that's where the discussion comes in about including the words "all necessary measures to protect civilians." that's the final resolution that gets voted on at the u.n. as we are flying back from the region, back to the u.s. on that trip that you, that we were discussing. we went to paris, we went to paris, egypt and then tunis. and it's in the course of those four days that that decision is made.
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so the conversation was very much, you know, the french are going to go ahead. we can let them do whatever they want, or we can actually try to shape this into something that is going to deliver people. >> host: i think my favorite chapter in the book is the trip to burma, perhaps because it's might be the most, i think, historical. >> guest: yes. i love that chapter. >> host: and just talk about what made that trip so unique. obviously, not very many people are traveling to burma at least from the united states at that time. >> guest: more and more, but certainly at the time it was very, very novel. you know, it was a very special moment, and it goes back to, um, when you look at the big picture of what, you know, my book will do for readers, this is a book that is several things. it is, you know, my personal story, my perspective on american power, um, it is the
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story of hillary clinton as secretary of state and her approach to the exercise of american leadership and the concept of smart power which we can talk about later, how do you do business as a global leader in a challenging world? but it's also a portrait of the woman. you know, this historic figure in the united states politician like her or whether you like her or whether you don't like her, she is, she has a global stature, she is a celebrity. she is a big personality. and she's been in the public eye for several decades. but i think that readers will discover things about her that they didn't know and see her in a different light. and i think that that chapter in many burma achieves part of that as well where you see her, um, as a woman who's meeting another historic figure, alaska san suu kyi, the nobel peace laureate. two amazing women, both for very
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different reasons, who come face to face who have never met before, and it's quite emotional and very historic. because of who these two women are. and in a way, again, you know, whatever you think of hillary clinton, i think everybody can agree on the fact that she, you know, is a global figure with an important stature on the global stage. she probably rarely meets women or people in general who are to some extent on that same historic level as hers. and i write in the book about how it's, you know, almost moment of recognition. and for aung san suu kyi as well. it's not every day that she has the opportunity because she's been under house arrest in burma for so long that she has the opportunity to meet world figures like that. so it was that moment that made the trip very special, and that's why i agree with you, it's a great chapter.
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but it's also to see american diplomacy in action and to see a tangible, if you want to use a wonkish word, deliverable. there aren't many deliverables in this day and age of diplomacy. but the opening up of burma, you know, still ongoing, no guarantees of long-term success, but they seem to be on the right, in the right, going in the right direction. that was quite special to watch as well. and it was done, again, very collaboratively. you know, the united states working along partners in the region to make this moment happen. >> host: and you said when you landed in burma and traveled around, it was the only time the reporters were actually looking outside the window not because it was unique and interesting which it probably was, but because there was no blackberry service. >> guest: yes, indeed. you know, we're so addicted to our blackberries on these, on these trips and, you know, as people are in washington as well that you sometimes miss looking around you.
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you don't have time because you're filing, you're, you know, filing your story, you're checking with your editors what they need or, you know, for some people checking back home with their family, you know, is everything okay, i'll be home or not, you know, for my daughter's birthday, etc. so you tend to be hunched down on your laptop or, you know, looking at your blackberry. but in burma, you know, communications was very limited, internet was very limited. this is a country that is, it's not north korea, but it's quite closed, or it has been for the last few decades. so it was a great opportunity for us to just, you know, sit back and actually look at the beautiful scenery and take in, you know, what was unfolding in front of us. >> host: all right. let's take on the broad thematic element of the book that we've discussed a little bit, but let's tackle it head on. and i think as we said, this book is really the exploration in many ways of american power
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in the world, questions of american decline, is it happening, is it not, is it a good thing if it was happening, is it not? um, what is your conclusion in those really big questions? >> guest: you know, in some ways i'm hoping that my readers will draw their own conclusions when they've read, um, all those different chapters, all those different angles, all those nuances. you know, the book is a little bit like cliff notes, you know, for an international diplomacy, an international affairs course can, if you will, done in a fun, engaging, very colorful way with a lot of pace. i've had people remark on the fact they were exhausted just reading the book because it's got this sort of frenetic aspect to it. i think that what i gained from writing this book was a greater understanding of what it is like to be a superpower. you know, it seems easy, but it isn't. and i've had the turkish foreign minister say that to me as well. he said, you know, it seems easy to be the secretary of state of
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a superpower, you can just make things happen. well, actually it doesn't work like that, and it's important to act foj it, to recognize it and see how you then behave in accordance to that. whether you're american or whether you're, you know, overseas. i found that, um, in my research i knew on a sort of, you know, on an instinctual level but i sort of went into the intellectual aspect of it, i knew that the conversation about american decline was cyclical because the headlines about american decline, um, were there constantly when i was growing up in beirut. particularly after, you know, the bombing of the marine barracks, you know? america in retreat, america in decline, big blow to america, america is over, america in the middle east, that's it, it's done. you know, 20, 30 years later, um, america is still there in one way or another, and the conversation is back to, you know, is america in decline, does america have influence in the middle east?
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i think it ebbs and flows depending on what else is going on. but i think no one can dispute the fact that america is no longer the sole superpower. it has rivals. it has allies who want more of a say. it has friends like turkey who are rising and want to have a bigger say, um, on the table. and what i found interesting was clinton's approach to that, and to some extent it's the president's vision as well, of course. don't try to suppress that, but work with it. how do you turn this to your advantage? how can you work with turkey to bring them on board and work towards a common goal? you know, it sounds great and easy. it's not that easy. but i think that, um, clinton, her advisers, you know, i mentioned jake sullivan who was her deputy chief of staff and has just been appointed to work as national security adviser for the vice president, and then, you know, people around the president as well, they saw
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smart power, collaborative approach to power as a more realistic, long-term, um, strategy for maintaining global leadership for the united states. now, if you don't want american leadership wherever you're sitting somewhere in the world, if you resent american power, um, then it's something that you have to learn to work with as well, of course. but i think that as clinton told me, um, in one of the many be interviews that i did, you know, i interviewed her 19 times, and she sat down with me for an interview for the book as well, it doesn't work anymore to say you're with us or you're against us. the united states isn't in that position anymore if only because of the economics, you know? this isn't an unrivaled economic superpower anymore, and it doesn't have the money to throw around to get done what it wants done. >> host: i saw hints in the book at least of you coming to terms asking questions about some
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people might want america in decline, but what does that mean? do you want china to replace america? would that be good for the world? or no power to have a significant say, would that be good? i took away the impression that -- and in some ways very personal terms because it's not only this broad question of american power, it's relating it to your experience back in beirut and what you learn inside the secretary of state that you think america having a strong presence in the world, the strongest presence in the world even if you think it's relatively declined is a positive. am i, am i misreading that? >> guest: i just want to, you know, the relative decline thing, i think american power is changing. i think the whole notion of power is changing. so i'm not actually a big fan of the word "decline" because i don't think it reflects necessarily the reality. and, you know, i'm not, i'm not a policymaker. but from where i'm standing as a journalist and as someone who, um, has lived, if you will, on the receiving end of decisions made in washington, i'm not sure
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that the word "decline" is the right one. but it is certainly the one used in the debate. i think that what i found was that there was no one else who could take on the role at moment. practically speaking, that the u.s. has. you know, china isn't ready to take on the role of the superpower, and i also discuss how having no one superpower, um, or no leading superpower, you know, can lead to global gridlock, and, you know, um, the -- there have been many books written about how, you know, if you don't have one leading superpower, it leads to this g0 world which is a phrase coined by ian bremer. no decision gets made. look at syria now. because the u.s. is unsure what to do, no one is really quite doing anything, you know? they're doing a little bit of this. the saudis and the qatarlys are arming, the turks want to do
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this, but no one is really coming in and taking charge, and that's what happens when the united states doesn't put its foot down sometimes and say, you know, this is what i think we should do. but i think that the way they then approach that and how to move forward, um, requires the united states to do it as i've been saying in a more clap rahive the -- collaborative way, to get people on board rather than lecture them and bully them into doing something. you know, we may be wrong n. a few years we'll see the world changing again, i'm not sure. i don't have a crystal ball. but certainly at the moment it looks like it does still require, um, american leadership even if it's collaborative to get something done. >> host: and people still on the ground as we mentioned before look to america, and you talk about, um, a trip to beirut you took in the summer of 2011 -- >> guest: yes. >> host: -- in the midst of the arab spring n some cases dictators had already been deposed in egypt. >> guest: yeah.
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syria was erupting. >> host: and you have two friends, not just one -- >> guest: well, i have several, but i thought i should condense it to just those two -- >> host: asking, basically, this was orchestrated by america, they wanted to get rid of dictators, what is their plan, do you think, with lebanon? they couldn't imagine that a superpower like america wasn't really pulling the strings. >> guest: you know, it was an interesting moment that i found very revealing of, um, the continued perception of america as a master puppeteer pulling all the strings. but it was an inherent contradiction in what my friends were saying or, you know, other people in the region where simultaneously they were praising people power which had brought down mubarak, which had to some extent brought down gadhafi, brought down ben ali in tunisia, and at the same time they were convinced that the united states was pulling all the strings. and i don't know how you
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reconcile those two images. and my explanation is that, you know, when chaos erupts around you, you want to find a neat, tidy explanation for why you don't have any control. and that is certainly what my experience was like growing up in lebanon. well, if there was war and i can't do anything about it, there must be someone responsible. and beyond, you know, the militia leaders in my country, somebody must be pulling the strings somewhere. you know, it must be america. so it provides a neat explanation for why you are powerless. it's not an accurate explanation, not always. i mean, america is certainly powerful and pulls quite a few strings, but does it have control over everything? it certainly doesn't have control over the outcome of the decisions that it takes. i mean, just look at the iraq war. it was supposed to go according to a certain plan, and it didn't quite work out the way people here had anticipated. so is this contradiction, this
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constant contradiction, and i don't know whether we will move beyond that. but i think that one thing that clinton did or very well as secretary of state in her relentless public diplomacy was to be very, um, sort of, um, pragmatic in the way she explained to people, you know, what the u.s. was doing. and very as a matter of fact act it. and at some point she says we don't have a magic wand that we can just wave. of course the united states doesn't have a magic wand. everybody knows that on an intellectual level, but there is still this expectation. and it's a fine line you have to walk as an american leader between saying, well, you know, we don't have all the answers, but we're still the superpower, right? so it's how do you project power but at the same time not raise people's expectations too much? and i think that's a very different line to walk. >> host: all right, legacy time. what will hillary clinton's legacy, what will history look
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back and say of hillary clinton's time as secretary of state? >> guest: you know, there are her fans, and there are her critics, and there are some of the people in between. so let me just tell you a little bit what i've heard. um, you know, we've had, we have her critics who say what has she achieved, no peace in the middle east, nothing with north korea, nothing with iran. the relationship with pakistan is perhaps a little bit better but it's, you know, still a mess. what has she achieved? and that's a very valid point. aren't necessarily that many pieces of paper that she can say this is the agreement we signed with this country, which this ie achievement we had there. you have her fans or the people who like her approach toty proposal is si who will say, well, what she really did was change the way the u.s. does business around the world and try the to apply this concept of smart power where you, um, in her own words deploy all the tools in the tool box of american diplomacy; development, defense and -- what did i say,
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development, defense and diplomacy, of course. so i think that in a way will be part of her legacy, but it's very much a work in progress. and we have to see whether building on that continues. with the new secretary of state, with the second term of president obama. but i definitely think from what i've seen as a journalist that it is a valid approach that deserves to be looked at seriously. and i think that that is her overriding willing si. she was very much -- legacy. she was very much about the big picture. she realized that she came in at a time when there was a lot of talk about american decline, when america was facing a financial crisis, and the world was facing a financial crisis. and she was very struck by the perception that people had of the united states, of this country that she loves, she believes in american leadership, and people are asking her who are you? many what do you stand for? are you till a superpower? you know, everything seems to be going into meltdown in washington. so she reasserted that, that
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perception of america as a global power, repaired some of the damage to alliances that america had around the world and tried to help improve the perception around the world of the united states. and then just one last point, i have spoken to several foreign ministers for the book because this is very much a layered book with a lot of different perspectives that are woven into the pages. and i have to say i was really struck by how, um, how much praise, how effusive people were in their praise of hillary clinton whether it was the turks or the french or even the pakistanis. i mean, imagine that, the country with which the united states has such a difficult relationship. the pakistanis were, had a lot of praise for hillary clinton and the way she approached things from a very human dimension. you know, as a mother. i write in the book about how she constantly connects with people on that, on that level,
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on that human level. and they, you know, i've had some people say she was one of the greatest secretaries of state that the united states has ever had. i think history will tell. and you always have to wonder whether the celebrity factor that surrounds her when she walk into the room contributes to that perception. but i think that there's definitely something there worth examining. >> host: yeah. i mean, i guess the president himself has claimed that she's going to go down in history as one of the greatest secretary of states. as you mention, i think it's a hard thing maybe to make a case for without necessarily any signature agreement, and you mention in the book she kind of chose not to make a signature issue out of any one problem around the world. >> guest: except for women. >> host: women, yeah. >> guest: women is one of the issues that she did take on and very much made part of the mainstream conversation. with every single world leader that she met, she discussed women's issues. and she put it in very pragmatic terms. you want to improve your

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